On 3rd of August 2012, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, put forward a proposal (A/67/227) concerning topics of violence towards women to the general assembly. The proposal (A/67/227) put forth by Rashida Manjoo, was concerned the types and frequencies of violence against women with disabilities. One of the clauses of the proposal highlights that ‘Women with disabilities are twice as likely to experience domestic violence as non-disabled women.’
‘Partnership for Human Rights’ lawyer Katie Bakhtadze, is providing legal aid and consulting to women with psychosocial disabilities in Georgia. Here follows the short interview with her on the major issues and barriers faced by these women in Georgia:
What type of services does the organization (PHR) provide for women experiencing mental health disabilities? What major problems has the organization encountered in this area?
We are conducting weekly visits to mental health institutions and centers in Tbilisi and other regions, meet up with the women and identify legal issues they face. PHR not only provides legal advice for these women, but organizes advocacy initiatives on the issues that are relevant to large groups of women. It is worth remembering, that most of the beneficiaries, don’t have the opportunity to hire a lawyer and protect themselves. Therefore, it is crucial for them, to receive these services free of charge.
However, this is not enough, as in order for beneficiaries to protect their rights, they have to be able to support themselves. In reality, many of them are dependent either financially or in other ways on the person, who undermines their right.
One of the beneficiaries, whose name for the reason of privacy we change to Teona, was tricked by her family members to decline her rights to the property. Family members managed to register the property in their own name at the public registry. Teona is eager to go to the court in order to protect her rights and fight the injustice, of being tricked into an agreement by her family members. However, this might be hard to accomplish, as the person is dependent on family members financially and without their help, she might end up being homeless without necessary living conditions.
Unfortunately, the case described above is just one out of many and it’s not an exception. In Georgia, women with psychosocial disabilities, are the ones who are victims of domestic violence and as those women are not able to escape their condition, they learn to live with it.
In Georgia, laws concerning ‘Protection and Assistance to the Victims of Domestic Violence’ doesn’t include adequate measures for the protection of women with disabilities, accordingly the law mechanism doesn’t provide protection, in a way in which equal protection will be guaranteed to all beneficiaries. This type of discriminatory approach is seen everywhere, in legislative and statutory acts and generally in society’s attitude towards women with psychosocial disabilities.
The stereotypes, which exist towards women with psychosocial disabilities creates a circle, which can’t be broken by women alone. Therefore, it is crucial for the government to take responsibility and ensure adequate protection to women in need of psychosocial help, who become victims of domestic violence.
Numbers are growing and unfortunately, there is no state research available on this topic and the data cannot be invoked in the official records.
Currently, there is an ongoing mental health reform and draft is being developed of the strategic action plan concreting the issue of mental health. Are the needs of the beneficiaries taken into account?
Unfortunately, there is not much hope left, that their will be major changes taking place in near future. ‘Government’s Action Plan for years 2014-2016 on the Social Integration of Persons with Disabilities’ doesn’t take into account special needs of women with psychosocial disabilities. We don’t see necessary means for them included into the government plan ‘Implementation of Gender Equality policy in Georgia in the years of 2014-2016.’
It is important to take into consideration, the action plan for the years -2013-2015 proposed by the Interagency Council of Georgia ‘Fighting against domestic violence and taking measures to protect victims suffering from it.’ Given proposal doesn’t include protection from violence of women with disabilities and the measures necessary for their rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, there is no official statistical data available, because state doesn’t pay attention to these issues. Nor do we have the official results of the research on the needs of women with psychosocial disabilities. Even in the state policy document (‘State Strategy on Mental Health Care’), women are not seen as particularly vulnerable groups, there is no data available either in legislative or normative acts, concerning special approaches for ensuring their protection.
There is a reason, why women with psychosocial disabilities fear to protect their own rights. This is due to, ‘insensitive justice system’ and society full of prejudices.
Different approach on the protection of rights of women with disabilities is suggested by the United Nations convention, written 13th of December, 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:
‘States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the full development, advancement and empowerment of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the present convention.’ (Article 6, Paragraph 2).
What events does the organization PHR plan in order to solve these issues?
We continue to investigate the needs of women placed in mental health institutions and offer them free legal services. Since September 2013 ‘Partnership for human rights’ – PHR has been implementing a project with the support of the European Union ‘Mainstreaming of gender-based violence against Persons with Disabilities in the State Action Plan’ and from April 2014 ‘Women’s Fund Georgia’ has been supporting another project ‘Protection from violence of women in psychiatric institutions and in need of psycho-social help.’